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Chickenpox Vaccine Increases Risk for Shingles

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May 29, 2002

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Chickenpox Vaccine Increases Risk for Shingles

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Scientists said on Thursday that vaccinating children against chickenpox (varicella) could increase the risk that adults would develop shingles, a painful blistering rash that is potentially dangerous in the elderly.

The team, at Britain's Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS), said that although vaccination would save thousands of lives over time, thousands of elderly people could also die from the complications of shingles, known as herpes zoster.

Writing in the journal Vaccine, they called for a re-evaluation of the policy of mass chickenpox vaccination that has been introduced already in the United States and is imminent in many other countries. In 1995, the chickenpox vaccine was approved for use in children over 1 year of age in the US and is now required for school entry.

After a bout of naturally-occuring chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus remains dormant in the body and may reactivate decades later to cause shingles, a painful rash that typically strikes chickenpox veterans after the age of 60.

Marc Brisson and his team say their research shows that adults living with children have more exposure to the virus that causes chickenpox and enjoy high levels of protection against shingles. Being close to children means that adults are exposed to the virus, which acts like a booster vaccine against shingles, they believe. But if all children were vaccinated, adults who have had chickenpox would no longer be protected against developing shingles.

The researchers worked out a mathematical model that predicts that eliminating chickenpox in a country the size of the United States would prevent 186 million cases of the disease and 5,000 deaths over 50 years. However they said it could also result in 21 million more cases of shingles and 5,000 deaths.

The PHLS said in a statement it was working out what the impact might be of
introducing a chickenpox vaccine in Britain. "As more evidence becomes available, it will be shared with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the Department of Health on the immunisation schedule.

JAMA May 1, 2002;287(17):2211:

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By attempting to eliminate an essentially harmless childhood disease, we are going to create a disaster of epidemic proportions. This is the "first glimpse" of things to come: vaccines to treat problems caused by vaccines.

Chickenpox is a mild infection of childhood caused by the varicella zoster virus. A self -- limiting disease characterized by fever, malaise and an itchy, vesicular rash that covers the entire body, chickenpox usually resolves within 4 -- 5 days, leaving the child with lifetime immunity. With vaccination by Varivax®, the duration of protection from varicella infection by is unknown.[1 ]

Shingles is thought to be caused by the reactivation of the same chickenpox -- causing virus, varicella -- zoster. It is generally a disease of the elderly but can also develop in insulin -- dependent diabetics and those who have immunodeficient diseases such as AIDS and leukemia. A shingles outbreak can be triggered by the stress-emotional or physical-or by certain medications, including steroids [ex: prednisone], chemotherapy and radiation.

Unlike chickenpox, a shingles outbreak is anything but benign. The first sign is usually unilateral tingling, itching, or stabbing pain on the skin. After a few days, a red, blistering rash appears that is severely painful rash that can last for weeks. At its peak, symptoms range from a mild itch to intense pain.

When the outbreak resolves, it can leave numbness, skin discoloration and permanent scars. Serious complications, including facial paralysis, hearing loss, or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) can occur, and if the infection includes the eye, the result can be glaucoma, cataracts or even permanent blindness.

There are a few medications available to treat shingles such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and topical agents. The severity and duration of an attack of shingles can be somewhat reduced if treated early with the antiviral drugs acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir ( Valtrex) or famcyclovir (Famvir). However, none of these medications "cure" shingles.

Approximately 20% of shingles cases can result in post -- herpetic neuralgia. This condition manifests as unrelenting pain that can persist for years after the initial rash has healed. There is no conventional treatment for post -- herpetic neuralgia and even the strongest pain medications are rarely helpful.

As the article points out, vaccinating children with the chickenpox vaccine will cause the pool of wild virus will die out. Adults who had chickenpox as a child need to be re -- exposed to the wild virus to keep any residual dormant virus in check. It is estimated that currently as many as 2 in every 10 persons may be affected by shingles in their lifetime. Without this exposure, the number of people who will contract shingles is anticipated to increase substantially. The solution appears to be the development of another vaccine.

Not to miss an opportunity, a large study is underway for the development of the shingles vaccine. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is currently testing a shingles vaccine in clinical trials in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health (NIH.) The Shingles Prevention Study is part of a nationwide collaborative effort between the NIAID, Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA), and Merck. It should be noted that Merck is also the manufacturer of Varivax®, the chickenpox vaccine.

This double -- blind study will test a vaccine similar to Varivax®; however, the experimental vaccine contains a larger amount of the weakened varicella virus. If a participant was given the placebo during the trial and the vaccine is later found to be "successful," the person will be offered the shingles vaccine at no charge at the conclusion of the study.[2] A nice perk for participating as a human test subject.

None of this makes sense. Wouldn't the logical solution be to STOP the chickenpox vaccination and allow this mild virus to do its job?

However, there seems to be little logic when it comes to the development of new vaccines. The vaccine industry believes that the widespread use of vaccines to prevent infectious diseases is "one of the greatest public health achievements of this century" and plans are in place to create a vaccine to treat every type of conceivable ailment. One of the goals set forth in the NIAID Strategic Plan it to:

"Explore opportunities for vaccine development in less traditional areas, including therapeutic vaccines for the management of chronic diseases; vaccines for the control of autoimmune diseases; and vaccines for special circumstances of public health concern, such as bioterrorism."[3]

So, a shingles vaccine to treat a problem caused by the chickenpox vaccine is only the beginning. Here are three examples of dozens:

1) The Allergy Vaccine: for cypress pollen and food allergies. Seven product candidates are in clinical trials with two more at the preclinical stage.[4]

2) The M.S. Vaccine: A USC -- invented vaccine for multiple sclerosis (MS)[5]

3) The Rhematoid Arthritis vaccine: RAVAX® is thought to inhibit the disease -- associated T cells that cause rheumatoid arthritis, and prevent further damage in patients suffering from the disease.[6]

Even the most cursory review of vaccine package inserts and the medical literature will show ample evidence that the side effects of vaccines can cause allergies. The hepatitis B vaccine has been implicated in the development of both M.S. and rheumatoid arthritis. The list goes on and on.

However, with NIAID's proposed budget of $4 billion for fiscal year 2003 [7], it is likely we will see more and more "designer vaccines" to treat a myriad of diseases -- in fact, there are more than 200 vaccines currently in the pipeline. It remains to be seen what additional medical disasters will created by this massive immunological experimentation.

Related Articles:

Chicken Pox: Why Do Children Die?

Children Who Had Chickenpox Vaccine Contract Disease


1. The Physician's Desk Reference. Varivax, p. 2202.


3. NIAID Strategic Plan Executive Summary.



6. Immune Response Corporation press release;

7. NIAID Strategic Plan Executive Summary.

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